With spring approaching (albeit faster in some parts of the country than in others!), my thoughts turn to the beauty of the first spring flush of blooms. But with those blooms – and even before the blooms emerge – come those nasty little aphids that suck the life out of tender new foliage and buds and that are responsible for the "honeydew" and black/brown residue they leave behind.
For those of us who want to control aphids yet don't wish to spray, there's a natural alternative, and one that I've used for the past few years with a good deal of success – lady beetles, commonly known as lady bugs. The variety most common in North America is Hippodamia convergens and its primary target pests are aphids, white fly, fruit worm and certain types of mites.
Lady bugs are the most popular and best known of the beneficial insects in the garden, and it's likely that they'll emerge at some point. But often they arrive after aphids have already been on the prowl for a while. One solution is to purchase lady bugs from a commercial source. The trick, however, is to time the arrival of your purchased lady bugs to coincide with the arrival of the aphids. If the lady bugs arrive before the aphids appear in sufficient number and therefore have little to eat, they're not likely to stick around to wait for their dinner.
There are a number of things that are said to be helpful in keeping your lady bugs in your garden, as opposed to having them fly off to a neighbor's yard. These include releasing them in the evening, before they settle down for the night, mixing certain types of carbonated beverages or sugar with water and more.
What I've found works for me is to release the lady bugs when it's relatively cool – in early morning or in the evening, and lightly hosing down the foliage of the roses before releasing the lady bugs. And after a few years of purchasing lady bugs in early spring, I've been pleased to see lady bugs appearing on their own – earlier each year.
And while you're visiting these sites, have a look at some of the other beneficial insects that are available against other rose pests.
This article was provided to the TVRS as a courtesy by the American Rose Society.